Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Tanzania power crisis worsens as drought bites into hydropower

While this describes a recent shut down of gas plants, the underlying
problem is this: "TANESCO�s Achilles heel is its reliance on river-
generated hydropower in plants such as Kihansi and Pangani Falls."


Power consumers fear crisis becoming worse

By The guardian reporter
9th May 2011

The Tanesco announcement of electricity rationing to allow servicing
of the Songosongo natural gas wells and plants, against the reported
poor water flow into Mtera dam has consumers worried over continuing
power blues.

The power supply firm announced on Saturday that a 16-hour daily power
cuts would be instituted from May 19 to May 26 when operators of Songo
Songo gas plant, Pan African Energy Tanzania Limited, shut the
facility down for routine maintenance.

At its absolute worst, the Songo Songo shutdown will leave the
national grid short of 350MW as TANESCO completely powers down Songas,
Ubungo and Tegeta Gas Plants for four consecutive days. Even as Dar
residents brace for the major power hitch, they have been experiencing
intermittent shutdowns, despite expectations that with ongoing long
rains power supply would have become more stable.

Speaking to The Guardian in separate interviews, Dar residents
complained that TANESCO has failed to reliably supply electricity to
the general population.

Mbezi Beach resident James Mosha said frequent power cuts last week
�made it impossible to sleep at night� adding: �I have to wake up
early for work next day. These people are making my life miserable.�

Another resident of Ubungo, Mary John said Tanesco was posing threat
to the people�s employments and the country�s economy since power was
a crucial ingredient for growth.

She said the power rationing that Tanesco has announced will cause a
number of inconveniences to people especially those whose businesses
depended solely on power from the utility.

Confederation of Tanzania Industries (CTI) Administrator Hussein
Kamote said that he expects most of the major manufacturers to be able
to weather an 8-day power rationing scheme, even if it is for up to 16
hours per day.

According to him many manufacturers would probably plan for surplus
production on the days leading to the planned Songo Songo shutdown and
subsequent power interruptions.

However he is worried about Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs),
which might not survive any interruptions in electricity supply.

�Industries that produce goods on-demand, especially SMEs are likely
to be most affected by this action, both in terms of quantity and
value� said Kamote.

Back in January at the height of the energy crisis, government
officials and TANESCO�s own executives had said that power supply
problems were a consequence of unexpectedly low rainfall levels during
the previous year�s rain season, coupled with drought in the Central
and South Western Region in which the all-important Mtera Hydropower
Dam is located.

A recent weather report from Tanzania Meteorological Agency shows that
not much has changed, as Dodoma and Iringa, on whose border Mtera Dam
is located, experienced below average rainfall in April 2011, and are
in for extended dry spells this May.

During the Saturday press briefing on Songo Songo, TANESCO Managing
Director William Mhando said that despite ongoing rains, water levels
in many of the nation�s Hydro Power Dams haven�t stabilized.

According to him, water levels at Kihansi, Pangani Falls and Kidatu
are still insufficient.

Hydropower alone contributes 562MW to the national grid � a full 58.51
percent of the grid�s installed capacity of 1051MW.

At the highest recorded peak demand, Tanzanians required almost 802MW,
meaning HEP alone is expected to cover 71 percent of the nation�s
total energy needs.

Contacted yesterday Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Energy
and Minerals, January Makamba, told this paper that the hydropower
situation �is not (at a stage) where we can be comfortable.�

�The power crisis is a result of failure of planning and leadership at
TANESCO and at the Ministry of Energy and Minerals� said Makamba,
adding that it is wrong to blame below average rainfall for the
country�s electricity woes when seasonal fluctuations are a recurring
variable that can be planned for.

He cited the upcoming Songo Songo shutdown as evidence of a lack of
vision, saying that government and TANESCO should have diversified
their gas portfolio so that the entire national grid is not disrupted
when one gas supplier is carrying out maintenance work.

The Bumbuli MP added that TANESCO�s Achilles heel is its reliance on
river-generated hydropower in plants such as Kihansi and Pangani
Falls; where rainfall levels haven�t led to any significant upwelling
in river volumes.

At Mtera Dam, water levels are only marginally higher, with a
documented increase of 30cm according to Makamba, which does very
little to mitigate ongoing power shortages.

The Guardian attempted to reach TANESCO MD William Mhando for comments
on the state of hydropower generation and its impact on national power
distribution, but our phone calls were not returned. Neither were our
calls to the Minister of Energy and Minerals, William Ngeleja and his
Deputy Adam Malima.

When asked for comment, Minerals and Energy Permanent Secretary David
Jairo told The Guardian that the ministry has appointed TANESCO as de
facto spokesperson for all matters pertaining to national energy supply.

Asked whether rolling power cuts that continue to affect parts of
Tanzania do not essentially reveal systemic flaws inherent in the
national energy strategy, Jairo responded: �The ministry has a very
clear vision (which is currently) being implemented.�


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